You’ve decided to take a Walt Disney World vacation. OH YEAH!! If you are like me, it can seem a little overwhelming to start planning your vacation. Not to fear though, you don’t have to have a Mousester or Ducktorate degree in all things Disney to plan a great trip!
The best option is to use a Disney expert travel agent to help guide your decision making to create a customized vacation just for you. As a former cast member, even I love having the help and ease of using one. (Huge shout-out to Tara McClure one of the DoleWhipped ladies and Disney travel planner; our last vacation was just perfect!)
Want to start planning yourself? Great! As a huge Disney fan (or fanatic per dear Husband), with numerous trips to the mouse house under our belt, I’d love to share the 8 steps we use for you to start planning you dream vacation at Walt Disney World.
1. Call to request your free Walt Disney World planning DVD. These are a great resource for planning your trip and bonus, they are fun for kiddos to watch in the car if you are making a road trip of it!
2. Decide when you would like to go! A few considerations to picking the best dates:
- Consider weather and crowd levels! Take a look at free crowd calendars available on the web; it is a great tool to help pick a week that may be less crowded than others. Will you want to hit the fabulous pools at the resorts or at the Disney water parks? If so, January or December weather might be iffy. That being said, we took a February trip to Walt Disney World this year and swam at the resort or Blizzard Beach 5 out of 7 days. Thank goodness for heated pools!
- Want to time your vacation to take part in a special event? Throughout the year, Walt Disney World hosts different events, some are covered through basic tickets and others require a special ticket purchase. These include Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, Star Wars and Princess Running events including marathon, half marathon, 5K and family fun run options, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, just to name a few! We’ve attended the Halloween party twice and it was fantastic! Everyone should try it once for the special Halloween treats, fireworks, parade, and trick or treating.
- Consider dining and fast pass reservations. Dining reservations can be booked 180 days in advance; fast pass reservations can be booked 60 days in advance if staying at a WDW resort or 30 days in advance with your ticket. Planning your trip a little further in advance makes it easier to secure hard to get reservations! Not to fear though, booking last minute trips has worked for us too but did require a little more flexibility.
3. Determine how long you want to stay! There is so much to do at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, the ESPN sports complex, 5 golf courses, 2 mini golf courses, multiple spas, boating recreation, and a dining and shopping area at Downtown Disney with enough activities to fill multiple days.
4. Decide where you would like to stay! There are a lot of choices and the great news is that it becomes easy to narrow down what works best for your needs by thinking about a few questions.
- How many of your posse are going on the trip? Some resorts have more room options for groups larger than 4 wanting to share a room.
- What will be important to make the most of your time there? Are you looking for the most amazing pool or little kid water play area? What is important to you regarding location, do you want to pick the resort in walking distance to your favorite park?
- Lastly, what works best for your budget? Resorts are available at every price point; offsite, value, moderate, or deluxe are available with numerous options for each!
5. Would you like Disney Dining? If you are staying on property (in one of the Disney World resorts) you are eligible for a prepaid dining plan. Several web sites break down the different plans and offer helpful tips if you aren’t sure. We’ve made trips with and without the plan and were equally happy with both. We enjoyed getting to try so many different types of snacks and meals on the Dining plan, especially character meals and dining at Epcot (gelatos, sushi, and crepes, oh my!). Also great was being able to order the most expensive meal on the menu in restaurants for table dining that was covered by the plan! On the other hand, we also enjoyed the flexibly of bringing in our own lunches to eat wherever and whenever was convenient.
6. Make your resort reservations and purchase your tickets! If staying onsite, make sure to use a Disney travel expert. Their services are free to you (score!); they are paid directly by Disney and all prices are identical to what you would get booking directly with WDW. There is really only an upside to this as they provide expert advice, ideas, and guidance to make your vacation the best it can be. If you would like to use the dining plan, make sure to book it with your room reservations.
7. Book your dining reservations as soon as possible! There are so many fun, unusual, and yummy options. If you don’t already have a few favorites in mind, try checking out on-line reviews and on-line menus to find great places to eat. Also, consider if you would like a character meal while on vacation. There is a large variety available with different characters and menu options (everything from standard breakfast fare to African to Norwegian!) Don’t worry if you can’t get all of your top reservations at first. For each trip, I was able to get every restaurant, even the hard to get ones like Ohana and Crystal Palace that we wanted by checking availability a few times a day for several weeks and being flexible with meal times.
Now sit back and get your Disney vacation count down calendar ready – You’ve got a great vacation to look forward to!